Source: Greg Thompson, The News-Enterprise
A proactive approach to grow employment at Fort Knox, including related civilian enterprises, Knox Regional Development Alliance has commitments for 62 percent of its $2.5 million fundraising goal.
To begin a push designed to complete its financing objective by year’s end, the alliance invited community leaders to a breakfast meeting Thursday morning at Grace Heartland Church in Elizabethtown.
KRDA is a blending of efforts previously undertaken by the CORE Committee and Hardin County Chamber of Commerce’s One Knox Council. Retired Maj. Gen. Bill Barron said the new effort will have a revised focus.
“The CORE Committee has been reactive rather than proactive and we simply cannot do business like that any more,” said Barron, who has served as part of the CORE Committee for nearly 13 years.
Speculation has swirled around Congress about the possibility of another base realignment and closure initiative in 2019 or 2020, he said. There is $4 million in the federal budget to look at the prospect.
Fort Knox has a regional impact because it supplies $2.5 billion to the local economy. The alliance will work to preserve that impact and help it grow.
Barron said other states, including Florida and Texas, have budgeted $1 million or more annually to find ways of keeping and protecting their military installations.
“We know we have a gem in Fort Knox,” Barron said. “KRDA will set the conditions for success.”
Ray Springsteen, president and CEO of Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, and Dennis Johnson, president and CEO of Hardin Memorial Health, were introduced as the co-chairs for the KRDA leadership team. To date, the credit union and HMH have made the largest investment in KRDA at $250,000 apiece.
“Fort Knox is Central Kentucky’s greatest asset — possibly the Commonwealth’s greatest asset,” Johnson said.
“We have this commitment to the community,” Springsteen said. “We want to make a difference. We see the incredible value here.”
Conversation about and the planning of KRDA has been in the works since February of 2015. When surveying roughly 100 stakeholders in the region, Springsteen said the importance of Fort Knox to the community was a unanimous view.
The goal is to raise $2.5 million by year’s end for KRDA to invest over the next five years in implementing the alliance’s three priorities:
* Advocate to retain existing and attract/recruit new Department of Defense missions.
* Implementing defense-related new business attraction and existing business retention programs.
* Developing more public-to-public and public-to-private partnerships.
Once the financial goal has been reached, Barron said the alliance will employ a staff of three whose sole purpose is to “get up every day, look toward Fort Knox and think only of ways to promote and protect it.”
The annual operating budget is set at $500,000 with half of that slated for staff salaries; $45,000 allocated to marketing; $75,000 to research and studies; $40,000 budgeted for travel expenses; $20,000 for office space and supplies; and an opportunity fund of $70,000.
Since April, KRDA has received commitments from businesses, governmental bodies and individuals in the amount of $1,556,500, which is slightly less than two-thirds of its target. It introduced 43 contributors at the meeting Thursday.
Springsteen said it “shows the power of the community.”
The city of Radcliff pledged the largest amount of support among the local municipalities at $125,000 over the next five years. Meade County government pledging $75,000 over the same period making it the largest supporter among the nearby counties.
Brian Kerr, president and CEO of Kerr Office Group, said he sees the importance of making sure Fort Knox, remains strong and viable.
“I see the benefit to Fort Knox being here,” said Kerr, who was born and raised in Hardin County. “We’re sheltered a lot with our economics because of Fort Knox, when other parts of the country may not be doing as well.”
Many recognize the installation as a key to the success of local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
“One thing we always believe in is making our community stronger,” said Mark Haynes of Gold Star Realty and Hodges Auction. “Sometimes you have to go out and do the right thing for the community.”
Haynes believes too often the public takes Fort Knox for granted because the post has been a part of the region for decades.
“We have to step forward and help another sector and I think that’s what most of the people here are doing,” Haynes said. “That’s something we will continue to do — be a good community partner.”